5 Essential Health Tips for the New Year

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At the start of a New Year, many people will make big resolutions, like losing weight or running in their first marathon. While that sounds like a good idea, sometimes only focusing on the big goal can set you up for failure from the start. Instead, making some simple lifestyle changes can help you reach that big goal in the long run. Below are five essential health tips from Sentara RMH Wellness Center to keep you on track in the new year.

Slowly increase your exercise levels

When making goals for exercise, beginning with a lighter option, such as stretching or gentle yoga, can help lay the groundwork for increasing your exercise levels. Starting with more intense workouts might lead to burnout or even stopping altogether.

When you join you get a one-on-one with a trainer for one hour to learn the machines and programs. But, if you don’t know that you can do it on your own, Sentara offers group fitness classes, too. Class options include yoga, Pilates, muscle building, Zumba, Barre, cardio, aquatics, and more. Check out the full class schedule here. Sentara’s certified personal trainers are also available for one-on-one sessions at the RMH Wellness Center. We also offer partner or group sessions.

Building up your activity level over time will make exercise a habit you’ll want to stick with.

Maintain a healthy, well-rounded diet

In addition to regular exercise, a healthy diet is another important part of your overall health. Some good recommendations to follow with your diet include limiting processed foods and sugary drinks, lowering overall calorie intake, using smaller portion sizes, and eating regularly to avoid overeating. When aiming for a healthy weight, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. When it comes to protein, the NIH suggests lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.

For some, tracking your food intake and menu planning will help, too. There are many free apps that can be directly downloaded to your cell phone to help keep track, but even writing it down in a daily journal is beneficial. Note what foods seem to give you energy or slow you down. Before grocery shopping, plan your meals to include a good mix of the NIH suggestions above.

Sometimes, outside factors might lead to overeating or undereating as well, such as high stress levels.

Manage your stress levels

Stress management can be a key factor in making your exercise and nutrition plans become healthy habits. For many, exercising helps, by lowering your stress (cortisol) levels and boosting your mood (endorphins).

According to the Mayo Clinic, high levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, can lead to anxiety and depression, digestive and muscle problems, heart issues, trouble sleeping, headaches, weight gain and memory impairment.

Endorphins are often known as the “feel good hormones.” They help with reduce pain and inflammation, encourage happiness and a feeling of well-being, and prompt the production of dopamine, which is a hormone that generates pleasure. Exercising is a great way to boost these hormones in your body, but even just a walk around the block for some fresh air can help.

Meditation and mindfulness practices can also help release endorphins. For some, this might mean practicing yoga, making time to read or create art, or even just visiting with friends and family. The key to mindfulness is is being aware of your surroundings, but also calming yourself down, for your health, rest and relaxation.

Make time for rest and relaxation

Rest and relaxation are important healthy habits. Daily moments for relaxation will help make stressors not seem like such a big deal. Also, getting the recommended amount of sleep each night means you will be well-rested to tackle your day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults need 7-9 hours per sleep at night. And while this is important, quality sleep is even more important. Good sleep habits include:

  • Following a consistent sleep and wake schedule, even on the weekends
  • Keeping your sleep space separate from your daytime space, which can include removing electronics like TVs and computers from your bedroom
  • Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature
  • Getting exercise, as physical activity daily can make you fall asleep more easily each night

Exercise, nutrition, stress management and rest are all part of a healthy lifestyle, but make sure to check in with your doctor, too.

Schedule health screenings

This might seem less important if you are healthy overall, but it’s far from it!

Your doctor can provide resources to keep you on track with your goals, as well as watch for any changes that could be detrimental to your personal health journey. Doctors can also do regular screenings to assess any long-term risks to your health.

Your doctor will also be able to provide specific exercise and nutrition plans that would be best suited to your overall health.

At Sentara RMH Wellness Center, we can help with all of your health goals and make them into healthy habits. We’re the perfect fit for your lifestyle. Learn more at rmhwellnesscenter.com.